Thursday, January 25, 2007

Colonial Voting Rights

This article that I'm posting below, is the biggest joke on Guam, which is absolutely not funny.

You have to be completely maladjusted to think that this makes us a part of the "American family," or that this is somehow a gain in in making Guam either more sovereign or more American.

I wrote a letter to the editor of The Pacific Daily News in 2005 after the ESPN Cockfighting debacle, which discussed how the circle of belonging for Chamorros and others on Guam is always a vicious one, made tragic, traumatic and perilous by scandals that continually exclude people on Guam, and foil their attempts to feel and be American.

You can find my letter to the editor, as well as some responses to it in my post from last year, Why Do We Fear Being a Third World Country, But Love Being a First World Colony? According to one of the responses from a haole, professing to speak on behalf of the US nation, he did an exhaustive search and could find no evidence of the "scandals" that I was referring to (otro fino'-ta, achokka' ti ha hasngon, ha prueba todu i sinangan-hu siha). I don't know what types of scandals he was looking for (perhaps a Monica Lewinsky style hug between Bush and Madeleine Bordallo?), but the ones that I am referring to take place all the time and at multiple levels, with different agents and victims. When I say scandals, I am not simply referring to wrong information in magazines or racist remarks from military and government officials, but also just how we are forced to contend with the blistering colonial ignorance of the United States. How as colonial subjects we are supposed to love and desire to be one with the colonizer, but how we are constantly thrown back or excluded in simple and small ways.

If you don't believe me either, and don't think that these scandals of exclusion occur, then keep your eyes on Congress, because the procedural change that the article below describes is an everyday scandal if I've ever seen one. For those who want evidence or proof of the "American-in-waiting" status of Chamorros, just wait until there is a vote in the House of Representatives where the votes of the delegates from the territories/colonies matter in the final tally, and watch our votes be cast aside. Democracy, political belonging, sovereignty, equality, are defined or judged as true or moral not at the points when these votes won't or don't matter (which is what this "victory" provides), but rather when they will. On this basis, America is a sham of a democracy, and we should be ashamed for thinking that it can teach us anything, or should be the "light" that guides us into the future.


Delegates win partial voting rights
By Dennis Camire
Gannett News Service
January 26, 2007

WASHINGTON -- U.S. territory representatives to Congress got back partial voting rights for many matters Wednesday, but their participation won't be allowed when they could determine the outcome of a House vote.

Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo said the largely symbolic votes permitted under a House rule change would recognize the people of Guam "for who we are, members of the American family."

"If you would deny your fellow Americans, the people of Guam, this small bit of symbolic participation, the greater loss is our nation's loss of its promise to the world of democracy that is inclusive and that values all of its citizens," Bordallo said during a debate on the House floor.

The rule change, which the House approved on a near party-line vote of 224-186, allows delegates from Guam, American Samoa, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the resident commissioner from Puerto Rico, to vote when the House sits as a "committee of the whole."
The committee is a parliamentary device the House uses to debate and amend bills before going to the final vote.

But the rule -- originally in effect in 1993 and 1994 but dropped when Republicans gained a majority -- also states that if the five delegates' votes change the outcome of a vote, the "committee of the whole" would stop and the regular 435-member House would vote again without the delegates.

The reason for the second vote is to avoid constitutional challenges.

Republicans fought the change. House Republican Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, called it a "power grab" designed to get them extra votes on House legislation since four of the five delegates are Democrats.

Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., said the legislation violates the constitutional principle of one person, one vote since Montana with 940,000 people has only one House vote while American Samoa with 57,000 people would gain a vote.

Rehberg also pointed out that the territories' population do not pay federal income taxes.

"The irony is that one of the guiding principles of the American Revolution was no taxation without representation," he said. "Now some in Congress are promoting representation without taxation."

Asked yesterday whether Bordallo would prefer the ability to vote in Congress or the ability to keep federal taxes in Guam coffers, her office said those issues will be resolved during a self-determination process that resolves Guam's political status.

"Delegates will once again be able to participate in a more active way in the Committee of the Whole and the amendment process that occurs on major legislation," Bordallo said yesterday after the vote. "I look forward to using my voting card in the next Committee of the Whole debate on legislation in the future."

The last time Guam's delegate had a vote on the floor, in 1993 and 1994, he typically voted three or four times a day, according to Pacific Daily News files.

Then-Delegate Robert Underwood in January 1995 said the inability to vote did not hurt him with respect to his constituents because the lion's share of issues aren't of great concern on Guam, files state.

Pacific Daily News reporter Steve Limtiaco contributed to this story.

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